Why Ruth Yakubu Listened To Her Inner Voice And Launched A Career In Artificial Intelligence

This post is brought to you in partnership with Microsoft Azure

Ruth Yakubu said she wouldn’t be where is today as a Sr. Cloud Developer Advocate at Microsoft with a successful 15-plus-year career in technology if she hadn’t listened to her inner voice.

“Deep inside, that voice was like ‘Ruth, this is not you,’” reflects Yakubu, whose parents wanted her to become a doctor. But after growing up going to hospitals in Nigeria and entering undergrad as a pre-med student, she quickly realized biology wasn’t for her after a school course required her to dissect a guinea pig and corrected her journey.

“I’m like, wait a minute?,” she says with a laugh. “I didn’t sign up for this!”

What Yakubu did sign up for was a C programming course, a class she credits with helping her find her calling. “Whenever I coded, it was like playing chess. It’s like a puzzle you’re trying to solve,” she said with excitement.. “It was very challenging, but the reward you find afterwards, after writing code; making it work, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I built this.’ That’s when I fell in love with computer science and decided to switch my major from pre-med.”

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Yakubu began her career at the global information technology company Unisys where she spent a majority of her time configuring hardware. This, ultimately, left her wanting to return to her love of programming.

Yakubu later held positions at the business management consultancy company Accenture as well as the satellite television company DirectTV. She also founded PoshBeauty.com, a platform that connects users to the premier businesses and freelancers in the beauty industry. Posh Beauty generated original content from leading fashion and beauty events such as New York Fashion Week and boasted partnerships with the likes of Paul Mitchell.

“I’ve learned in life that anything that you want, make the initial step and you’ll be amazed and surprised at how all the doors, everything will align to cater to what you need,” says Yakubu. “You can be successful.”

Her transparency, quick-on-her-feet demeanor and ability to step out on faith led her to land a position at Microsoft a year and a half ago as a solutions architect where she speaks to the needs of their clients, and showcase how their services work.

Microsoft has been pivotal in Yakubu’s professional development, providing employees with access to conferences, workshops and courses to continue equipping them with career-enhancing skills. In her role, she has the opportunity to demo Microsoft products at conferences and serves as an advocate for developers, taking their feedback and relaying it to specific product groups within the engineering team. She’s also tasked with creating and updating content so everyone from startups to enterprise clients fully understand how Microsoft’s products and services work.  

“They [Microsoft] make sure whatever area that you’re lacking, you’re up to speed because it’s all about, how can [we] make the world a better place? How can we use our technology to improve people’s lives?”

She cites artificial intelligence and machine learning, an application of AI that enables computers to act and make data-driven decisions, as some of the most game-changing innovations under Microsoft’s cognitive services.

“Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined stuff like that where now a machine can tell you just giving them a photo what the characteristics [are] in the photo without any human being being in the process,” says the techie. “Those are things that if you’re always a curious person, you’re excited about. Those are different ways you can get yourself plugged in and keep learning. Just when you think your mind is blown now, we take it up a notch.”